PopeWatch: History

Wednesday, May 17, AD 2017

 

The Pope has an interesting conception of History as he displayed in a homily he preached before he left for Fatima last week:

 

 

During the course of history, Pope Francis said, many of our conceptions have changed. Slavery, for example, was a practice that was accepted; in time we have come to understand that it is a mortal sin.

“God has made himself known throughout history” he said, “His salvation” goes back a long way in time. And he referred to Paul’s preaching in the Acts of the Apostles when he tells the God-fearing children of Israel about the journey of their ancestors from the Exodus from Egypt until the coming of the savior, Jesus.

The Pope said salvation has a great and a long history during which the Lord “guided his people in good and in bad moments, in times of freedom and of slavery:  in a journey populated by “saints and by sinners” on the road towards fullness, “towards the encounter with the Lord”.

At the end of the journey there is Jesus, he said, however: “it doesn’t end there”.

In fact, Francis continued, Jesus gave us the Spirit who allows to “remember and to understand Jesus’ message, and thus, a second journey begins.

 

This journey undertaken “to understand, to deepen our understanding of Jesus and to deepen our faith” serves also, Francis explained, “to understand moral teaching, the Commandments.”

He pointed out that some things that “once seemed normal and not sinful, are today conceived as mortal sins:

“Think of slavery: at school they told us what they did with the slaves taking them from one place and selling them in another…. That is a mortal sin” he said.

But that, he said, is what we believe today. Back then it was deemed acceptable because people believed that some did not have a soul.

It was necessary, the Pope said, to move on to better understand the faith and to better understand morality. 

And reflecting bitterly on the fact that today “there are no slaves”, Pope Francis pointed out there are in fact many more of them…. but at least, he said, we know that to enslave someone is to commit a mortal sin.

The same goes for the death penalty: “once it was considered normality; today we say that it is inadmissible” he said.

 

The same concept, he added, can be applied to “wars of religion”: as we go ahead deepening our faith and clarifying the dictates of morality “there are saints, the saints we all know, as well as the hidden saints.” 

The Church, he commented, “is full of hidden saints”, and it is their holiness that will lead us to the “second fullness” when “the Lord will ultimately come to be all in all”.

Thus, Pope Francis said “The people of God are always on their way”. 

When the people of God stop, he said, “they become like prisoners in a stable, like donkeys”. In that situation they are unable to understand, to go forward, to deepen their faith – and love and faith do not purify their souls.

And, he said, there is a third “fullness of the times: ours”.

Each of us, the Pope explained, “is on the way to the fullness of our own time. Each of us will reach the moment in which life ends and there we must find the Lord. Each of us is on the go.”

“Jesus, he noted, has sent the Holy Spirit to guide us on our way” and he pointed out that the Church today is also on the go.

 

Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask themselves whether during confession there is not only the shame for having sinned, but also the understanding that in that moment they are taking a “step forward on the way to the fullness of times”.

“To ask God for forgiveness is not something automatic” he said.

“It means that I understand that I am on a journey, part of a people that is on a journey” and sooner or later “I will find myself face-to-face with God, who never leaves us alone, but always accompanies us” he said. 

And this, the Pope concluded, is the great work of God’s mercy.

 

As Cardinal Newman noted, Doctrine can develop.  He proposed tests to determine whether a proposed change is a development of doctrine:

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Go here to read an explanation of these tests.  PopeWatch doubts if Pope Francis has ever heard of these tests of Newman.  If he has he obviously is unconcerned with them.  The Pope seems to believe that the Holy Spirit provides us with free flowing continuing revelation, revelation that is free to contradict Church teaching, and even prior divine revelation.  This is a common stance of many heretical groups throughout the history of the Church.  It is odd and alarming to here it now being echoed by the Vicar of Christ.

In reference to the death penalty the late Cardinal Dulles, a Jesuit, noted the weight of authority in reference to the death penalty:

 

In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law specifies no less than thirty-six capital offenses calling for execution by stoning, burning, decapitation, or strangulation. Included in the list are idolatry, magic, blasphemy, violation of the sabbath, murder, adultery, bestiality, pederasty, and incest. The death penalty was considered especially fitting as a punishment for murder since in his covenant with Noah God had laid down the principle, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image” (Genesis 9:6). In many cases God is portrayed as deservedly punishing culprits with death, as happened to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Numbers 16). In other cases individuals such as Daniel and Mordecai are God’s agents in bringing a just death upon guilty persons.

In the New Testament the right of the State to put criminals to death seems to be taken for granted. Jesus himself refrains from using violence. He rebukes his disciples for wishing to call down fire from heaven to punish the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality (Luke 9:55). Later he admonishes Peter to put his sword in the scabbard rather than resist arrest (Matthew 26:52). At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment. In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, “He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die” (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10, referring to Exodus 2l:17; cf. Leviticus 20:9). When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate’s power comes to him from above-that is to say, from God (John 19:11). Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Luke 23:41).

The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that “a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses” (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.

Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God:

The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.

In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.

Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.

In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day. The Vatican City State from 1929 until 1969 had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope. Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.

Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.

Go here to read the rest.  If the Pope is seeking to reverse the traditional teaching of the Church, rather than simply to call for the non use of the death penalty in most circumstances, than his action raises grave questions indeed, questions that PopeWatch is certain the Pope has not given a second to ponder,

14 Responses to PopeWatch: History

  • There seems to be debate about whether Pope Francis is trying to say the death penalty is now a mortal sin or not. I’m no expert, but if the Pope can say that what wasn’t mortal sin is now mortal sin, does that mean he could argue that what was mortal sin now isn’t?

  • I fall along the lines that he was not saying the death penalty is a mortal sin now, but with his stream of consciousness style when going off text, who really knows for certain? The Pope seems to believe his role is to be a prophet led by the Holy Spirit, prior Church teaching, or Divine revelation, be hanged. That is a view of the papacy not held by any of his predecessors. Turning non-sins into sins, and sins into non-sins, would be no problem for a man who has such an exalted role of his office. The alarming feature of the current pontificate is not that the Pope is a bad Pope, or even a deranged Pope, but that so few Catholic ecclesiastics have the courage to say that much of what the Pope spouts is pernicious nonsense and that he needs an intervention, stat.

  • They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11).

    Heh, I never thought about the first Pope executing people. I wonder how Shea would handle that… (he’s up to part 4 of his series by the way)

  • Two things: in the “moral wars,” we first need to stop the death penalties of millions of unborn God’s creations. Once we have saved all those unborn humans, we can discuss whether capital criminals should or should not be executed. Two, the innocent and weak among God’s creations suffer when the guilty are not punished.

  • An additional effective argument would be to explain how historical Church teaching on slavery differs from teaching on the death penalty. Pope Francis implies that they are similar issues following the same path just separated by 200 years or so. I do not know the history of Church teaching on slavery, but I’m sure there some on here who do.

  • but that so few Catholic ecclesiastics have the courage to say that much of what the Pope spouts is pernicious nonsense and that he needs an intervention, stat.

    I doubt most occidental bishops actually object. As for the ones who do, I suspect many are hoping that the Pope’s utterances will be received as so much static and that once he shuffles off this mortal coil, the whole distasteful pontificate can be forgotten. What I would like (which I’m not seeing) is a redoubling of effort on the part of bishops to produce pastoral letters which are distributed at Mass (and, on occasion read) which restate settled teaching without necessarily making direct references to Francis’ blurts-de-la-semaine.

  • Unfortunately, what the pope is doing here is nothing new. For years, we have had bishops like Archbishop Chaput engaging in similar smear tactics against Catholics who rightly support the death penalty. Like this slimy cheap shot against Justice Scalia:

    “When Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly disputes Church teaching on the death penalty, the message he sends is not so very different from Frances Kissling (of “Catholics for a Free Choice” fame) disputing what the Church teaches about abortion.” http://catholicexchange.com/all-called-to-advance-churchs-mission-in-the-world

    Now while Justice Scalia came off as something of a blow hard in how he mixed up prudential judgments with actual Church teaching, but in no way does he dispute the actual teaching of the Church on the matter. And Chaput knew it.

    You also have Abp. Gomez saying the Church “teaches” the death penalty is no longer acceptable. The Church teaches no such thing because she cannot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT_lZ2Eyi5c

    To listen to some orthodox Catholics who rightly call out the pope for stuff like this and then ignore the fact that bishops like Chaput, Gomez, and other American bishops who are darlings of many orthodox Catholics is disgraceful. Such people have absolutely no moral right to complain about Pope Francis’ shenanigans.

  • Unfortunately, what the pope is doing here is nothing new. For years, we have had bishops like Archbishop Chaput engaging in similar smear tactics against Catholics who rightly support the death penalty. Like this slimy cheap shot against Justice Scalia:

    “When Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly disputes Church teaching on the death penalty, the message he sends is not so very different from Frances Kissling (of “Catholics for a Free Choice” fame) disputing what the Church teaches about abortion.” http://catholicexchange.com/all-called-to-advance-churchs-mission-in-the-world

    Now while Justice Scalia came off as something of a blow hard in how he mixed up prudential judgments with actual Church teaching, but in no way does he dispute the actual teaching of the Church on the matter. And Chaput knew it.

    You also have Abp. Gomez saying the Church “teaches” the death penalty is no longer acceptable. The Church teaches no such thing because she cannot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT_lZ2Eyi5c

    To listen to some orthodox Catholics who rightly call out the pope for stuff like this and then ignore the fact that bishops like Chaput, Gomez, and other American bishops who are darlings of many orthodox Catholics do much the same is disgraceful. Such people have absolutely no moral right to complain about Pope Francis’ shenanigans.

  • To listen to some orthodox Catholics who rightly call out the pope for stuff like this and then ignore the fact that bishops like Chaput, Gomez, and other American bishops who are darlings of many orthodox Catholics do much the same is disgraceful. Such people have absolutely no moral right to complain about Pope Francis’ shenanigans.

    I think rank-and-file Catholics are doing satisfactorily if they’re up on what their own bishop has to say. I do not expect them to know what the Archbishop of Philadelphia has to say unless he’s their bishop. While we’re at it, who is Bp. Gomez?

    Again, Mr. Justice Scalia’s job was to ascertain whether or not statutes prescribing capital sentences and whether or not (on procedural or substantive grounds) court proceedings which conclude with a capital sentence are congruent with constitutional provisions. That’s a different question than those which concern the morals or prudence of capital sentences.

  • Umm, Art, Chaput’s influence extends far beyond Philadelphia. I have a hard believing you are not aware of that.

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  • Umm, Art, Chaput’s influence extends far beyond Philadelphia. I have a hard believing you are not aware of that.

    I’m aware his viewpoint is propagated in Catholic media more extensively than others. Doesn’t mean people are obligated to be up on his remarks or are stripped of their right to complain about the Pope’s inanities because they didn’t punch some ticket re Chaput.

  • Because the state has the prudential right to exit capital punishment does not man that there are not better means to the end of protecting society from mad criminals. The Germans do not execute people and they have found it is the better way for them. It is like war. It is necessary for the security if the state even if it is sometimes done unnecessarily. What bothers me about the worry about capital punishment is that it pales in the face of the practice of abortion in this country, which in terms of intent is barely distinguishable from infanticide.

  • Capital punishment is executed by the citizenship of the condemned, by his membership in the state and by his refusal to pass away with grief over his murder of an innocent member, another citizen of the state and God’s adopted child. The murderer in the first degree ought to have expired with grief over his capital crime against another sovereign person. Unable to grieve for his crime invokes the murderer, in the first degree’s power of attorney to come to the condemned murderer’s aid. Eternal Justice does not change. People have suffered jeopardy of life when the first murder was enacted. Second Jeopardy of life continues as long as the condemned murderer in the first degree lives. Justice cannot and does not allow the murderer in the first degree the chance to relive and enjoy reliving his murder in the first degree.
    Eternal Justice like eternal Truth is immutable. God cannot and does not contradict Himself.
    “all men are created (not born) created equal” in original innocence with endowed unalienable innate human rights. Rights endowed by “their Creator”, never by the state. The human being, the sovereign person has a right to self defense (The Preamble, the purpose of the state and our Constitution. Self defese cannot be waived for a murderer in the first degree, not by God, not by the Church and never by the state instituted by the victims. Archbishop Chaput is overreaching in his questioning of capital punishment for murderers in the first degree.
    Every sentence handed down by the Court may be served by anyone who wishes to spare the condemned…except the death penalty. The death penalty must be served by the murderer in the first degree. To remove the peoples’ self-defense against double jeopardy of life is injustice and cries to heaven for redress.

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